Oguchi Onyewu on U.S. World Cup camp omission: 'I was gutted'
Oguchi Onyewu, who turned 32 on Tuesday, was aiming to make the U.S. World Cup roster for the third time in his career, but he was omitted from Jurgen Klinsmann's 30-man preliminary roster, which was released on Monday. After being a first-choice U.S. center back for years, he combated injuries, fluctuating club situations and a rising generation of U.S. defenders for his place on the national team, but ultimately came up short in his quest to represent the USA in Brazil.
These are his unfiltered — but edited for clarity — thoughts, emotions and perspective as told to SI.com by him (the past editions in this series can be read here), on the disappointment of being left out and having reality sink in that he won't be playing in the World Cup.
I was gutted.
As can be expected. For this past season, since August, September, that has been my main focus, my goal. The exact moment that you realize that it won't come into fruition is kind of like thousands of tons just dropped on you and you don't know how to react. You don't know what to be. You don't know whether to be disappointed, upset, pissed off, mad, all the above. That was my initial reaction. I kind of found myself in a bad place for a little bit, but you pick your head up, you move on and you move forward. You can't let that keep you down.
[Klinsmann] gave me a call and he told me that he wasn't selecting me for the 30-man camp, and that was it. To be 100 percent honest, I'm sure there was [a back-and-forth conversation] but I can't even remember it, because it's so irrelevant. There was no relevant response that he could have given me that would have put me at ease at all. The explanation didn't really make a difference to me. It was just the decision itself.
I've always said that experience can only be a benefitting factor for you [Editor's note: None of the five defenders who started for the U.S. in South Africa will be on the 2014 World Cup team]. I figured that with that under my belt, with me putting to ease and putting to rest all the injury woes and worries that were surrounding me, playing 18 games with Sheffield from January -- I think I had the most minutes out of anybody once I joined the team -- I just figured I did everything that I possibly could do in my situation in order to rectify a bad situation that I fell under at the beginning of the season. You can only control what you control, and I definitely did that. Obviously it wasn't the direction that he was looking for.
For myself, this will be really the first vacation I've had probably in a decade. I'm just kind of staying away from [talking to any players who did or did not make the 30-man roster] all that and not trying to upset myself any further by not seeing too much of it. It is what it is. It's on every TV, website, it's in your face, so I'm trying to minimize as much interaction until I have to. Eddie [Johnson]'s exclusion was also a surprise. You never know. There's still seven more cuts to be made. There might be a few more, so I don't know.
I'm not a bitter man. I'm definitely gutted and disappointed and upset and all those negative adjectives and words that you could use to describe this kind of situation. The shock news that I wasn't given an opportunity in the 30-man was an immense hit. But at the end of the day, that 30-man doesn't define me, it doesn't define my career up until this point. I've still achieved many things that current or past U.S. players and defenders haven't done in their careers, and I don't think that I'm going to let this setback stop me from continuing to move on and to try and progress as a player. It is what it is. I think good players and great players keep moving forward despite setbacks, disappointments and negativity.
I think that I've overcome a lot of odds and done a lot of things that probably in my situation a player would've thrown in the towel and been like 'OK, there's no chance, injuries-this, club situation-that, and everybody saying come back to the States, come back and play in MLS.' I think individually and personally a person needs to know himself and be realistic with himself, and up to this point I think I've been extremely realistic in terms of my capabilities, the possibilities for the future and so on.
I did very well at Sheffield and received a lot of praise from the time I was there, and I'm going to use that positive momentum and take it to next season and into a better situation for myself. There are definite different possibilities popping up now. A lot of clubs want to handle certain aspects of the transfer market before the World Cup starts. There's different possibilities, but no decisions have been made yet. I'm still weighing all the options, and I just want to make the right decision.
I found myself in a great situation in terms of the games that I've played in Sheffield and the way that I played them and how now people perceive me as to how they perceived me perhaps nine months ago. I definitely took many steps in the right direction, and I'm going to continue trying to do so. ... Not being selected [for the 30-man] doesn't really change my process. I always wanted to settle what was going to happen to me prior to the beginning of the World Cup, so I'm still focused on doing that. Hopefully in a few weeks time I'll have better news to give.
[Is international retirement a possibility now?] I'm going to have to think about it and review the reality of that to what end, to what purpose. Perhaps maybe Jurgen doesn't even want to have me on the national team anymore, so it might not even be my decision. I haven't decided anything yet. I haven't even really thought about that direction. I should, at some point.Obviously me being not selected is not going to want me to wish any malice on the U.S. team. It's not the players' fault. I definitely wish them much success. They have three hard games ahead of them, definitely games they can get results out of. I'm hoping for the best in their campaign and anxiously awaiting for the tournament to begin.